Two of Jamaica’s most distinguished universities, the University of the West Indies and the University of Technology (UTech), recently conducted graduation exercises which saw the release of thousands of young, brilliant and hopeful minds, into a Jamaican society desperate for youthful brilliance. Following those graduation ceremonies, there were no shortages of gratitude on the part of graduates, neither could there be found any doubt among them that the best of their lives were to follow this most significant milestone.
Sad to say, however, most of these graduates often come to find that reality is far from what they picture it to be. The plight of the Jamaican tertiary level graduate often sees him/her being condemned to a life of underemployment, if not unemployment. It is certainly not an uncommon sight to see persons holding degrees in engineering, business administration, and even in hospitality management, just to name a few, working as call centre operators.
Do not misunderstand; this newspaper wholeheartedly welcomes the investments and thousands of job opportunities available through the booming BPO sector, but against the backdrop of graduates buckling beneath the weight of their Student Loan debts, we fear this may not be enough. Certainly, our government is to be commended for its drive to increase employment opportunities for our youth, but they cannot be given a free pass simply because of the quantity of jobs they parade, versus the quality of these jobs. This newspaper believes that our graduates are to be rewarded for their hard work, lest we continue to be a nation on the decline from graduates sowing the seeds of their knowledge elsewhere.
In as much as we encourage our youths to seek higher education, so too must we honour their commitments by ensuring that quality employment opportunities exist once they are equipped to undertake them.
In the same breath, we encourage our graduates to be pioneers, and to make opportunities for themselves where none exist. Entrepreneurism continues to be an avenue for self-actualization, and many individuals have channeled their feelings of disappointments into creative ventures that they can now enjoy a living from. This, we believe, is the true goal of education – the ability to make a way, even when it seems blatantly impossible to do so. Until our graduates realize this, however, we have to make an effort to feed their dreams, lest we become a nation of absolute failures.